The Caribbean island was once the destination of movie stars, mobsters, and the American elite during the 1940s and 50s before the Cuban Revolution. Since then the US has imposed an economic embargo on the country – and although traveling there is not banned, spending money there is. (Read: Unless you can eat air and sleep in the streets, travel is banned).
Now that Fidel Castro has stepped down as the president of Cuba many are waiting for their chance to experience what once was the hottest thing off the coast of Miami. The Bush administration has adamantly stated that the regime chance won’t mean an end to the embargo but there are many factors why it can’t last.
You may not be able to pack your bags now but here’s why you should get ready in a few years.
Difference Between Embargo And Travel Restrictions
The US does not have to completely end the trade embargo with Cuba to make travel there possible. Thousands of Cuban-Americans already go and spend money there every year. The lengthy visa and customs process actually costs US citizens money without stopping the flow of cash.
Raul Castro Will Make Changes
Fidel’s appointed-president brother will be under pressure from both the Cuban people and his own ego to make changes. Bolstering the travel industry already in place for (mainly) Europeans will drive the Cuban economy, make Raul look good, and put pressure on US companies to get in on the action. All of the parties involved will be driven by economics, not politics. Raul is also 76 years old, so he may not be in power for very long and Fidel can’t live forever, expect more power changes in the next few years.
Regime Change In The US
You’ve got a 1 in 3 chance at the moment if you’re hoping that a new president in the US will change travel restrictions to Cuba. Senator Barack Obama has said that if elected the next president of the United States he would like to ease travel restrictions. No guarantee of change but the closest the idea has been to the White House since the embargo began.
Tourists And Business Owners Don’t Remember/Know Why There Is An Embargo In the First Place
The Cuban Revolution happened in 1959 and most of the people who run influential large businesses that can petition Congress don’t even know why the embargo is in place. With Fidel gone, they now have more of a case to end the embargo (beginning with easing travel restrictions). Castro may have outlived generations but keep in mind baby-boomers are on their way out. The current generation of young travelers aren’t concerned about ideology, they just want to get a good tan.
Tourists Are A Good Way To Export Ideas
Diplomats talk to politicians but tourists talk to people. Americans in Cuba would only help to empower locals who will be exchanging ideas with real Americans – not the ones they hear about. Traveling is one of the best ways to dispel stereotypes about a culture and the effect goes both ways.
The Embargo Has Not Worked
It has been 50 years and Fidel Castro has remained in power and Cuba is still communist. Embargoes in general are ineffective and only help to keep those in power stay in power.
The desire among American travelers to visit Cuba is growing and enough time has passed to where real change may occur in the very near future. A tourism industry doesn’t really require an infrastructure, can produce a lot of revenue, and open societies up. Economics will drive the US to allow tourists to travel to Cuba in the next 5 years.
What do you think do people who want (or go) to Cuba supporting a hostile regime or do they have any positive effect? Would you go to Cuba or do you think it’s more than a decade away? Let us know in the comments, I’m really interested in what you all have to say on the topic.
I for one really want to travel to Cuba. I am curious to see what state a US embargo and almost 50 year dictatorial regime has left it in. I am skeptical about Raul Castro’s possible actions, though. Would Fidel appoint his brother if he knew Raul was going to change things? Maybe I’m just being pessimistic or something. Very well-written post though, and very informative! It made me consider ideas that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise!
Thanks for the comments – I think that as long as Fidel is in the shadows, Raul will be very limited. I think that someone with the ego of Fidel wouldn’t step down unless things weren’t so good body or brain-wise. Just a bet though.
I agree that Fidel can and will control Raul as much as possible as long as possible.
Hopefully though I’m right sooner than later and we can take a trip to Havana!!
Things could get very interesting very quickly in Cuba. Raul is a reformist and while he’s a shoo-in for the next leader, he is not Fidel Castro. If he decides to make change and that change isn’t welcomed *or* if he tries to uphold his older brother’s wishes but without the same force – civil unrest could be the future.
And civil unrest could be more damaging than communism ever was.
Personally, I don’t think much will happen for a few years. But once the embargoes are lifted, it will take months – certainly under a year for the cruise lines to move in and start capitalizing.
Of course, it’s all just speculation until something turns the tide: http://www.gogirlfriend.com/travel-news/castro-resignation-new-cruise-destination-7020
Thanks for the input Julia – I agree, once the embargo is lifted the cruise lines will move in. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re already planning routes, etc. in anticipation.
I think also that Raul will not be able to have the hold or force that Fidel was able to. I had not adequately considered the prospect of civil unrest or armed revolt — that could set things back a very long time.
That’s why I think it’s in the US’ best interest to lift the embargo now, to give people the power and a stable, growing economy from which a free market can grow.
But…like you said, all just speculation at this point.
Great ideas, thanks!